PARIS — Oxford Hills spent the first half of the high school baseball season going through the motions, and its record reflected that.

With unbeaten Messalonskee, the two-time defending Eastern A champions, visiting Gouin Athletic Complex Friday, the Vikings had all the inspiration they needed to turn their focus, emotion and overall game up a notch.

All they needed was a big inning and a big-time pitching performance to pull off what may be a season-defining win.

Oxford Hills rallied from an early 2-0 deficit with a six-run third, Dalton Rice tossed a complete game four-hitter with 11 strikeouts and the Vikings handed the Eagles their first loss of the season, 7-2.

“That’s a huge win,” Rice said. “I believe they were in first coming into this game. After having a disappointing loss to Cony at the beginning of this week, we were looking to rebound, revitalize and renew. The entire team, we were looking to start anew. Our season started Wednesday (with a 3-0 win over Skowhegan) and now we’re back.”

Rice allowed just one earned run and one walk and retired 15 of the last 17 Messalonskee batters, one of whom reached when strike three bounced off of home plate and over the catcher’s head.

Brady LaFrance led the offense with three hits, including a double and a run scored. Nick Beauchesne had a single, double and three RBIs and Nick Attaliades-Ryan added a single, double, RBI and run.

With the wind blowing out, a rare occurrence at Gouin this season, the Vikings (6-3) collected nine hits, including five doubles.

“We’ve been struggling lately, but it definitely felt good to get on a tear there and open it back up,” Attaliades-Ryan said.

Messalonskee (8-1) was as aggressive and opportunistic as ever early on, taking advantage of a two-out error in the first for a 1-0 lead on Devin Warren’s RBI single. The Eagels doubled the margin in the second, again with two outs, when Trevor Gattis scored from second on Jake Dexter’s infield hit.

Oxford Hills squandered Attaliades-Ryan’s leadoff double against Eagles starter Ben Frazze in the second, but didn’t repeat the offense with Ty Martin’s two-bagger to start the third.

LaFrance beat out a bunt and Nick Bowie walked to load the bases, then Beauchesne ripped the first pitch he saw to center for a game-tying single.

Rice followed and worked the count to 3-2, then hit a routine pop-up to the foul side of the first base line. The first baseman and catcher let the ball fall between them, giving Rice new life.

“When that happened I was like, ‘Well, now he’s giving me a second chance. It’s time to go to work,'” Rice said.

Rice worked the next pitch into right-center for a two-run double and a 4-2 lead. Attaliades-Ryan drove him in with a single and eventually scored on Luke Davidson’s sacrifice fly to make it 6-2.

With Messalonskee in an unfamiliar position, Rice wanted to keep the momentum in the Vikings’ favor when he returned to the mound. In 13 pitches, he struck out the side.

“Whenever you can get the first three batters out in any inning, whether it’s by strikeout or by your defense playing great, it’s huge. The momentum is just all there,” Rice said. “I had my slider working for me. My fastball was working. It was all working.”

“Getting in front stopped their small-ball game, their stealing, the stuff that affected us a little bit. And we settled in a little bit once we got a lead,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said.

Rice allowed just one more hit the rest of the way, a leadoff single by Gettis in the fifth. As the rain arrived in the later innings, he made quick work of the Eagles, setting down the next nine in a row.

“Quite honestly, we were fortunate to get the two runs. We didn’t hurt him,” Messalonskee coach Ray Bernier said.

“Of course, this is actually the first time we found ourselves in the hole like that, too,” he added. “As coaches, we were to some degree kind of glad, to see how we would respond. We were hoping to respond a little bit better. But give Oxford Hills credit for how they put the pressure on us and hit the ball.”

Doubles by LaFrance and Beauchesne added the final run in the sixth

“We’ve lost to some teams that competed harder than us. That was the bottom line, and we just didn’t hit the baseball,” Slicer said. “There’s a little different attitude this week. (Assistant coach) Joe (Oufiero) and I had a talk with the kids and kind of opened it out. Expectations have changed a little bit. Of course, this was a big game, and when you have Dalton on the mound, you always have a chance.”

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